Controlling Wedge Trajectories
In my observation, hitting quality wedge shots is one of the most difficult things to do, judging by watching average players. Invariably, amateurs hit their wedges too high, with an inconsistent trajectory, which makes precise distance control all but impossible. Mr. Hogan used to say that unless you knew the trajectory your shot would take, you had no idea of how far it would go. Pretty sage advice, I'd say.
So, today’s post was prompted by a long narrative I received from Zack S, just last night. He fully explained his dilemma with wedge shot trajectories . . . here’s some paraphrasing:
Pretty much every club in my bag makes sense to me except for my lofted wedges. The thing I'm bothered the most by is related to how the ball behaves from different lies, such as when I open the face for a little more height/fade . . . the ball often flies up and to the right and travels only half the intended distance like a terrible flop shot or something. Is it really just that the club slid all the way under without ever catching the ball on the grooves?Well, Zack, as I said, what you experience is what seems to plague most golfers. You claim to be an analytic guy, so let me try to explain the physics of what you’re experiencing.
First of all, with added loft, such as with wedges, particularly when laid open some, the overall face height is diminished, so the ball will make contact further up the clubface as you suspect. And because of the loft, the ball is more likely to "slide" up the face at impact to some degree – more from rough or a fluffy lie than from a tight fairway lie, logically, where friction is reduced. The higher the clubhead speed, the more effect the low center of mass typical to wedges will have on the flight, i.e. higher.
The problem of higher-than-optimum trajectories with wedge shots that is common to most amateur golfers is aggravated by two things. First, mass-production wedge shafts are typically heavier and firmer than the others . . . too much so in my opinion. The typical golfer cannot adequately load the shaft at the top of the backswing, so when they start down they do not have the hand speed to stay ahead of the clubhead through impact. With the wedge being the heaviest head, it passes the hands before impact, adding loft and launching the ball into the heavens on a high looping trajectory, rather than the lower, tight pattern common to better players.
I’m a big proponent of softer shafts in wedges for this very reason. It helps you load the shaft a little at the top of the swing, so that you have a better chance of staying ahead through impact. At EIDOLON, we also engineered our wedge shafts to be a little firmer in the tip to help keep trajectories down for the average player, while the upper section is where the “movement” of the shaft occurs for feel and trajectory control.
Another key cause of such high trajectories for amateurs is that the ball is often played too far forward in the stance, and/or the angle of approach to the ball is too steep. A key to good ball position is to have a backward “lean” to the shaft at address, with the hands positioned just opposite the inside of the left thigh (for RH golfers). The takeaway thought should be to take the wedge back low and slow to create swing path width, and then you must keep the left side leading the clubhead all the way through impact.
I hope this helps you understand the geometry and physics at work on these shots, Zack, and that you enjoy your new EIDOLON wedge! We give one away every Tuesday, guys and gals, so send in your questions via the link below.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.
[ comments ]
Scoring Shots - another good one, thanks WG.
- Great article-picture if you really look at it. The divot starts slightly forward of the right foot (ball is back in the stance) and the hips have shifted to the front leg (have been having this drilled a lot in my lessons as of late)
i'm lost right here, can i get some clarification?. i cant make this happen for the life of me:
"A key to good ball position is to have a backward “lean” to the shaft at address, with the hands positioned just opposite the inside of the left thigh (for RH golfers). "
position the ball closer to your right foot. The trajectory will be lower.
@ birdieXris: A backward lean of the shaft means that at address the clubhead is further back than the hands (Another way to look at this is for the hands to be pressing forward). The shaft should be aligned with your left arm (for RH golfers)forming a straight line with little or no break at the wrists...
Hope this helps :)
Notice in the picture that the clubhead is barely passing the hands well after impact. This is key... keep your hands ahead of the club through impact.
@Agustin = Ok yea that's what i thought.. I think the wording was killing me there.
Thanks Terry, I'll focus on the hands and start practicing from the rough to see if I can get more predictability out of my short game.
Bryan K says:
I love my wedges. Funny thing is, I get criticized a lot because of the trajectory, or lack thereof, that I get with them. There is so much to think about with a wedge shot. But there are two basic rules that always hold true. 1) never try to loft it with a fluffy lie, and 2) always try to loft it with a deep lie.
SD Charlie says:
Man - this question / answer speaks to me. On my last round out I had two great drives and was left with about 75 yards to the hole. I pull my gap wedge thinking "this is the perfect distance." Both times I ended up about 10-15 yards short (one in a bunker!). I was left wondering what to do next, and as a result have lost what little confidence I had in my wedge-play. Now I have something to build on tomorrow at the range.
This article made me feel a heck of a lot better about my wedge game. I use 3 different types of wedge shots with my wedges, The punch wedge, the bump and stop wedge, the rainbow shot or normal wedge play. The biggest area of focus for me this year has been getting my wedges to be consistent on the green in my ball response. I am great at stopping my wedges but I stuggle on getting them to back up. I have often had the approach of "Pinching" the ball at impact but from the article above, maybe I want to focus on positioning more. Something to think about!
Terry, I would have to say that reading you column has opened my eyes with my wedges. I use only 2 wedges-PW and SW, with moving the ball back and keeping my hands ahead and quiet my 100 yards and in have improved by leaps and bounds and yes I have used a budies lob wedge to no avail, after the ball about smacked me in the head, I think I will just stick to the 2 I have. Keep the information coming!!
Wow another great article. I think practicing trajectory and distance control really makes a difference in my score. I have started to flip my practice time to focus on this order instead of banging 50% of the bucket with my driver and a 7 iron.
Why not practice those that make the biggest impact?
1. Putter (25-40 strokes)
2. chipping/scoring within 100 (10-40 strokes)
3. The rest of your irons 20-30 strokes)
4. Driver (15 strokes max?)
Bryan K says:
The way I look at it...one should never had more than 18 shots from within 100 yards (off the green) in a round. Any time it takes more than one shot to hit a green from 100 yards, that a wasted stroke.
But I'd like to go even further. My scores right now rely heavily on being able to consistently get up and down by getting the ball close enough to the pin without having to hit any lag puttts. If I don't go up and down at least, say, 4-6 times in a round, I'm not going to score well. I'm a terrible putter, so that means I have to get my chips and pitchese close.
And that means that I beleive that the single most important shot on any hole is the first shot that should hit the green. Missing every green can easily add two stroks per hole if the roughs are thick (or there is a lot of sand...or water...). Getting it close enough to go up and down consistently can really add up to a lot of saved shots.
I know I need to work on my putting, but not having to putt really helps out my game a lot.
@BJohn - if you're trying to lower your scores, and your wedge play is so great, why not take some time and focus on putting, driving and iron play?
Wedge play will save strokes for sure, but only so many. If you can't get off a tee well or feel confident sinking an 8 ft putt or feel comfortable hitting a green from 170 out, you'll be constantly be fighting for bogie.
I was once told '60% of your shots are from 60yds in.' That's probably a conservative estimate, actually; but it's a good way to keep perspective on your game, come practice time. Short game shots are the key to good scoring, period. If you're only focusing on one part of your short game while ignoring the rest, you're doing yourself a disservice.
Bryan K says:
I do work on putting. A lot. I think my poor putting has more to do with my eyesight than anything. My depth perception is a liability. I have a strong strabismus in my left eye. My putts are either short or long. I miss over the cup when I hit long, and I miss under the cup when I hit short.
I play quite a few different drills to improve. The problem is, when I'm actually on the course, I can't tell the difference between a three footer and a five footer unless I use something (like my club) to measure it. I don't think that's legal. On the longer putts, I can pace them out while I'm lining them up, but it's not the lag putts that I struggle with. It's the makeable ones from three feet to fifteen feet that I have a tough time sinking. Inside of three feet, I rarely miss.
Bryan K says:
Funny thing...I missed a two foot birdie putt tonight. Good thing it was a scramble and my partner was able to bring it home.
I love this artical... I am in the same boat with wedge play I hit fairways with my driver or whatever other club i choose about 75% of the time and get about 300 with the driver and feel like I should be shooting around par but the wedge play for me is poor. I always thought that wedge play should be these high towering shots. So from what I got from this is that using a low gap wedge for 100 instead of a full towering sandy would be more effective in controling the distance?
would this also apply to say a lower 3/4 9 or 8 iron shot instead of a full pitching wedge? Or is this more geared towards a lob and sand wedges?
I've wondered how to hit the lower wedge shots that get more spin, I've tried on the range but you really can't tell on the driving range green if your getting a lot of spin, usually because the "greens" your hitting to aren't cut like greens on a course. This article seems to be a good starting point, i've tried playing the ball back in my stance and concentrating on hitting the ball 1st, but i usually either skull it or chilli dip the shot. Any advice?
@bjohn13 - Something you may want to try on putting. I've been doing the following for some time now and average 31 putts per round;
At the practice tee before your round, find a fairly level area on the green and grab 3 balls. Take your standard putting stance and take a stroke using your back foot as the end of the backswing. Putt the three balls using the same stroke and don't look at the results untill you've hit all 3 balls. If you are relatively consistent the 3 balls should be within2 feet of one another. Pace off the distance and you've got an idea of the green speed and your stroke. For me, this gives about a 9 pace(about 22feet)distance putt. I do this a couple of times to make sure I'm consistent. When you are playing use the pace as your distance calculator. Pace of your putt, adjust for any difference in your "standard" pace and green slope. On short putts, say 6 feet and in, I practice these a lot but more so for confidence.
Bryan K says:
Thanks, Steve. I'll give it a shot.
I tend to spend a lot of time on the putting green before a round and still find myself lost once I get to the first hole.
Great tip SteveS.
Will be giving that a go next time out.
@fusman - The wedge guy wrote one up on spin a while back
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